Saturday, January 30, 2016

Personal Digest Saturday: January 23 – January 29

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday was super packed with stuff. I went to my friend Keith's house to make a video about science fiction stuff and Steven Universe, and then after that we went to Drink and Draw club. I got to meet a couple new people, eat a new sandwich, and draw some crap, plus I got to catch up with Joy and Eric. Yay!
  • Sunday I just relaxed watching cartoons, reading, and writing e-mails and doing household chores. We all need days like that.
  • Monday I worked my day job as usual and also I went on a shopping spree online buying a bunch of cartoon stuff 'cause I can. Also spent the day and the next day answering e-mails, watching cartoon stuff, and doing some old editing.
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We ate at Five Guys, watched Galavant, and talked about aromanticism, feminism, and cartoons.
  • Thursday was Rain City. I didn't really get wet on the way to work though. When I came home Victor was waiting for me and he had gotten soaked in the rain, so I threw him in the shower and made him wear blankets while I washed and dried his clothes. Then we made pizza cones (something neither of us had tried before), ate them, and opened my birthday and holiday gifts that he had never sent me. Haha. He gave me a cool literary pillow, some candy, a cat bank, a couple books, a couple CDs, some stickers, and a fortune-telling pen.
  • Friday I came home after work and ate my last pizza cone, did my comic and read the rest of a book, and watched silly things on YouTube until I fell asleep.
    New reviews of my book:

    Places featured:
              Reading progress:

              New singing performances:

              Here I'm singing "Spam" by Weird Al Yankovic.


              New drawings:

              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0559: "No Loud Sounds."

              New videos:


              New photos: 

              Drinking my weird soda at Drink and Draw.
              My friend Nebula wearing several of her Miyazaki-inspired clothing items.
              Eric spent the night and his blanket was my Sailor Moon sheet.
              Having fun reading Adams.
              Pizza cones!
              Me with a mushroomy pizza cone.
              Victor photographed me photographing pizza cones.
              I photographed Victor photographing pizza cones.
              Social Media counts: 

              YouTube subscribers: 5,263 for swankivy (4 new), 553 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 734 for swankivy (lost 1), 1,200 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 285 friends (no change) and 191 followers (3 new) for swankivy, 630 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 119 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,315 (no change). Instagram followers: 52 (3 new).

              Wednesday, January 27, 2016

              Wednesday Factoid: Musician

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Are you a musician?

              Sorta. If I had to say yes or no, I'd say no.

              Which is a weird thing for a person who majored in music to say, yes?

              I shall explain.

              I know how to play eight instruments to some degree, but it's been a long time so to be honest I've probably forgotten everything on most of them. I know I'd pick it back up immediately if I had to, because I learned these instruments' basics very quickly and it was easy. Instruments I can play:

              Except for piano, I learned how to play all of these in school. In college, we had intensive classes for brass, percussion, and woodwinds that I got decent grades in. (I learned violin when I was younger, and I had piano classes in school but my dad also gave me piano lessons when I was a kid.) The one I'm probably best at of the above is piano, but I don't consider myself competent enough to do anything with it, since I couldn't really accompany myself or anyone else without a great deal of difficulty and practice, and I have written a few very limited songs with piano backup. In other words, I know enough about these instruments to know I don't play them well enough to be meaningful.

              However, the missing instrument here is a big one: voice.

              And I hope you don't doubt that voice is considered an instrument, and one could still be a musician if that was their primary instrument.

              I do a lot of hobby-level karaoke, but I performed as a singer throughout my high school years and the first half of college, and I'm sort of "trained" I guess. I took voice lessons for several years and performed at the state level in honor chorales, solo/ensemble festivals, and audition-only choral groups. I know a lot about music theory and I can do some really basic arranging, though mostly I just do by-ear harmony and stuff. I've been doing that for fun since I was in elementary school.

              But even though I know more about singing and am better at it than the average bear, I still don't really consider myself adept at it, and I don't use it as a framework to create stuff competently to the point where I would call myself a musician. I might be on the cusp of "music nerd," but I'm really not much of a musician.

              That said, I have a LOT of fun with music when I have time. Look below for a couple YouTube examples.

              First: A six-part harmony video with all six parts recorded by me, with a music-nerd skit leading up to it. The song is "Butterfly" by Rajaton, and the skit is me arguing with myself about which voice part is most important.


              Second: A duet with Tanya, singing "What Is This Feeling" from Wicked. I am playing Galinda and she is playing Elphaba.

              Monday, January 25, 2016

              Protect the children [GIFs]

              This past weekend I was invited by my Drink and Draw buddy Keith to make a collaborative video about Steven Universe for his science fiction audience. He was looking for someone to have an in-depth conversation with about how the show's worldbuilding and character development makes it an ideal candidate for consumption by adult science fiction fans even though it is marketed as kind of a magical adventure show for children.

              Keith's video isn't going to be out for a while--he has another one to release first, and then ours will probably have to be three parts because we recorded for about two hours--and believe me, I had no problem talking about cartoons for that long. I'll be sure to share it when it's ready. In the meantime, here's Keith's SF channel.

              An interesting topic that came up was how cartoons for previous generations--most notably the stuff fed to us in the 80s--went out of their way to purge all gray morality, avoid references to death, never show actual violence (even in, say, shows like G.I. Joe which were explicitly about war), and sacrifice character and pacing for moral lessons. There were even frequent segments in mainstream shows where the characters taught incomplex lessons about behavior and morality outside of the show, as well as underestimating children consistently so they could drag out a lesson. We knew, as children, that adults were talking down to us, and we watched the cartoons despite that, but we came away from these stories with a sense of dishonesty that built up over time. These shows made by grown-ups would consistently tell us that cheaters never prosper, that liars are always caught, that bullies are always punished, and that kids can always trust adults. And we learned through experience that the world isn't really like that, and developed some trust issues with our entertainment. In the name of trying to protect these kids, the stories of our generation lied to us and taught us lessons that didn't work in context, setting us up with idealistic expectations that would filter into disappointment.

              During our discussion, Keith said he thinks that's where the "mean" and "crass" cartoons of the 1990s came from--South Park, Family Guy, Beavis and Butt-Head, and many others that thrive on mocking, shaming, and being foul. We WANTED to see these things in our animation, and found them delightful, because we were so sick of the sanitized lies of dippy "for kids" entertainment that it felt transgressive to see characters hurt each other and describe the world as a kind of awful place. And for us, it felt good for a while. Until all the entertainment out there was jaded and mean-spirited, and the nice entertainment was hard to sell.

              And Steven Universe is kind of just what we needed. It's completely, utterly nice, without deriving its humor or its entertainment from hurting its characters or watching its characters hurt each other in contrived ways, and yet the morality is super gray without trying to be dark and edgy. It's actually pretty phenomenal how it manages to do this, though it probably survives with this dynamic intact because the protagonist is a child who is unusually trusting, idealistic, and friendly. And sometimes this helps the group out, while other times it bites him in the ass--like in real life. The adults surrounding him are not nearly as trusting, and they often prefer to punch first and ask questions later, but a little boy yelling for them to stop fighting is NOT always presented as the voice of reason. The show acknowledges a complicated world, and also acknowledges that some idealism helps more jaded, weary characters remember what they're fighting for.

              Instead of showing us a world where the bad are always punished, the bad guys are always easily identifiable as villains, and the existence of complicated problems is hidden behind walls staffed by smiling adults asking children not to look behind them, Steven Universe actually shows how a harsh world can hurt--and how it can be dealt with healthfully and, to some extent, successfully. It doesn't pretend the problems aren't there or present them in inauthentic ways. It doesn't try to "protect" kids by not talking about what you do when adults break down and can't help, or when your parents behave more like kids, or when your role models want you to do something that feels wrong and you have to speak up, or when forgiveness is really, really complicated. This show acknowledges that people have those problems, that they're not shameful even though they hurt, and that there are ways to work through them. Without babying the kids that experience them, and without expecting them to need an adult character standing there with a ruler telling them that this is the lesson we're going to explore today.

              There are a number of reasons why this show has resonated with people of many backgrounds, but I think this is one of the biggest reasons it has such a huge, rabid adult following. We didn't realize how hungry we were for something like this, and on top of all the other things it does right (lovely music, diversity in cast and character, great worldbuilding, beautiful art, important female and queer representation, atypical presentation of boys as allowed to have emotions without being shamed), it is one of the few shows on television right now that feels authentic in how it teaches its lessons: without making anyone the butt of a joke, without presenting contrived situations to be solved simplistically, without covering children's ears to protect them from the bad sounds, it actually does help us learn while entertaining everyone.

              And that's why this one show does far more to actually protect children than any ten shows with canned lessons.

              Saturday, January 23, 2016

              Personal Digest Saturday: January 16 – January 22

              Life news this week: 
              • Saturday wasn't very eventful; I was just kinda cleaning up some stuff I hadn't paid attention to during the week and whining to my friend Ronni through e-mail. I had a bunch of pictures to process and it was tiring.
              • Sunday was . . . MY THIRTY-EIGHTH BIRTHDAY! I had a nice day, honestly--it was super lovely. I woke up when I wanted to, huddled under my Garnet blanket watching cartoons, and went out to lunch with my dad at Macaroni Grill. Then I did more huddling and cartooning until Mom came over with a birthday cake! And presents! I got new galoshes. Pink ones! We ate the cake and hung out talking about media and stuff. And I got phone calls from friends and family to say happy birthday. Such a nice day!
              • Monday I went to work (yes, I had to work on MLK Day), and our new employee Deborah was starting officially. She seems really low-key and nice, so that's a relief. (Getting a new employee is a big deal because my office is TINY. We had four people, including me, before she started.) In the evening I dove into editing my friend Heather's book, which is why I did not read a published book this week--I was working on this.
              • Tuesday was Meggie's fortieth birthday! I got her a Disney gift certificate she can use next time she goes to the parks. While grocery shopping I ran into an old high school friend who told me she heard me mentioned on a podcast a while back. It was Sex Nerd Sandra, with whom I'm marginally familiar because she was considered for a review copy of my book when it was first coming out. We chatted a little and I went home, proceeding with more editing, and helping my mom with a roommate ad.
              • Also on Tuesday, I got my royalty check for the next six months of book sales, and that's always niiiiice.
              • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We ate at WTFBurger and had pizza and went comic book shopping, and at home we watched Galavant and ate cake. And after he left I finished reading Heather's book.
              • Thursday I sent my book feedback out to Heather. She's going to be a big deal soon, I think. I spent the evening talking to my friend Victor on the phone and drawing my comic.
              • Friday was rainy and I got to try my new galoshes. The good news is they kept my feet dry. The bad news is my rain suit doesn't do as good a job as the galoshes. I had to sit around wet at work all day which was gross. Mom came over after work for help with her phone and camera, and to give me a late birthday present--a cool CD I didn't have. Anyway I got the comic done and that was that.
                New reviews of my book:

                • Thousands of X's has a little run-through of what they think of my book so far, and it's not very nice, but oh well. I think it's kinda funny that they say stuff like "It consists of blog posts rewritten to form a book, and you can definitely tell," and . . . that's not even close to what it is or how it was written, but to each their own, right? But part of the reason I think it's funny is that they say you "can tell" something that isn't true, but then they recommend Asexuality Archive--who literally DID take blog posts and make them a book, and states explicitly that that's what he did. Heh. A lot of what they say seems to directly contradict what other people say about it, but to be honest I'm really glad the community is not an echo chamber and people don't feel obligated to review it glowingly.
                • Ermisenda Alvarez gave it four stars on Goodreads, and there's no real review except that they specify that they actually mean 3.5.

                Places featured:
                      • The Sex Nerd Sandra podcast I didn't know about until I was told I was mentioned on it (though I was not discussed extensively, but my book came up in a conversation about how some folks came out to their parents): "Sex Nerd Sandra #192: Asexuality 101."
                      • Over the Rainbow: I'm on the list for 2016 made by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the American Library Association (ALA).
                      • A Tumblr post I wrote about fear of sex was listed on The Asexual Agenda's linkspam this week.
                      • Asexuality in a Sexual World recommended my materials for educating oneself. (Though the blogger refers to me as "SwankyIvy," which is a misspelling of my YouTube name.)
                      Reading progress:

                      • Completed reading: Age of Gramen by my friend Heather, beta-reading. :)
                      • Currently reading: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

                      New singing performances:

                      Here I'm singing "Justified and Ancient" by The KLF.


                      New drawings:

                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0558: "Sharing the Victory."

                      New videos:


                      New photos: 

                      Got a bunch of mail on my birthday!
                      Turned out only one of them was a gift though.

                      My birthday cake, made by Mommy!

                      Me on my 38th birthday.

                      New pink galoshes: gift from Mommy!

                      The new employee at the office gave me candy!

                      My royalty check came in!

                      Social Media counts: 

                      YouTube subscribers: 5,259 for swankivy (6 new), 549 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 735 for swankivy (7 new), 1,200 for JulieSondra (lost 6, lol). Facebook: 285 friends (no change) and 188 followers (3 new) for swankivy, 629 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 119 likes for So You Write (2 new). Tumblr followers: 2,315 (4 new). Instagram followers: 49 (10 new).

                      Wednesday, January 20, 2016

                      Wednesday Factoid: Indoors vs. Outdoors

                      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you prefer the indoors or the outdoors?

                      Easy one for me: Indoors.

                      I like having a safe, warm, and dry place to be by myself and focus on what I want to focus on. I really like walls. There are times when I appreciate the outdoors quite a lot, but it's not something I gravitate toward. Outdoor places I enjoy include forests and porches. I really like porches actually. They're kind of a mixture of inside and outside.


                      Tuesday, January 19, 2016

                      At First [GIFs]

                      This will probably be a little convoluted and disorganized because I'm frazzled. You are warned.

                      I had a conversation with my mom the other day about initial impressions, centered around American cartoons. (Because of course it was.) I was telling her how when I was in high school and got super obsessed with Animaniacs, I actually had a negative impression of the show before I saw it. I didn't like the character designs; I thought they looked suspiciously like a cross between Mickey Mouse and some amorphous old-timey "cartoon character." (The latter, I heard later, was intentional.) I tend to be less excited about fiction that humanizes animals, too, and my first impression of these cartoon characters was that they were some kind of bunny or dog.

                      But some of my friends were kind of obsessed with the show and I wanted to understand what the fuss was about, so I watched a clump of three episodes one day and I was immediately hooked. Like I mean it was instantaneous. Looking back, I don't have any idea why. It just was. I was about to go on a camping trip when it happened and I was all upset that I couldn't collect more of them while I was gone, so I actually made a friend tape them for me, and binge-watched it when I got home. This is in the days before Internet, too, so even though I'd gotten into it after the show had been on for a long time, it was a long time before I saw the majority of the episodes. I had to wait for them to come on one by one and enjoy them that way. And I had no master list, so when they started repeating, I never knew when the next one that came on might be a new one or a new-to-me one.

                      I still remember that I was turned off by the show's presentation, though--that I wasn't interested in checking it out until my friends liked it, and that I disliked the character designs. Some combination of seeing the characters' antics in context and the phenomenal voice acting really sold it for me, and I basically thought everything Yakko did was the most adorable thing in the universe, even though I used to think he wasn't interesting at all. If I tried to explain to people why I liked it so much, they usually still had whatever impression they'd initially had of the show, thinking it was too juvenile or obnoxious for them based on the commercials or how the characters looked. And I could understand that, even though I usually tried to evangelize and drag them into watching it with me.

                      Twenty years later, almost the exact same thing happened with Steven Universe. I saw images floating around Tumblr of these characters and didn't really read anything about the show; I thought it looked like another dumb action show from Cartoon Network with superheroes fighting monsters, and the character designs really put me off. I thought the oversimplified, geometric body types were awkward, and what really makes me laugh now is I remember I was especially annoyed by the design of the character who became my favorite. (I remember the first pictures I saw of the characters featured Garnet with her gauntlets out and I was like "why the HELL is that character wearing BOXING GLOVES? And why does her head look like a bread loaf?")

                      I'm not sure why I found the designs so unsettling when I first saw them, but I did. I didn't have the same problem with it that I did with the Animaniacs characters, thinking they were some kind of animal, but it was in the ballpark because I couldn't figure out what they were supposed to be. Were they some kind of stylized humans? (Then why would one of them be purple?) Robots? Monsters or something? Well, aliens, it turns out. Gemstone people from space. Works for me. Anyway, I had no interest in checking it out based on first impressions, but when Tumblr gets excited about something I usually end up checking it out just so I can even understand my dashboard. 

                      It has really been hit or miss, too--I'd say about half the time I just don't get whatever they're into (and then I feel old), but the other half the time I do see the appeal. Avengers fandom? Couldn't get it. Homestuck? I had trouble following it and gave up. RWBY? To tell you the truth I'm baffled. But when everyone started talking about Welcome to Night Vale I jumped in and continue to be a fan to this day. And I watched playthroughs of the game Undertale and I think it's super. When Steven Universe kept coming up in discussions of LGBT representation in my online circles, I'd wonder about it, then scroll past like I did with Loki fanfic and trolls with astrological symbols on their shirts, because I figured if I ever did check it out, I wouldn't want to be spoiled. When I saw a post discussing same-sex relationships in cartoons and saw SU compared to Legend of Korra (one of my favorite shows), I was kinda impressed that people were claiming it was an ongoing show with multiple same-sex relationships (and then I watched people arguing about whether it counted because the characters were female-presenting but were also sexless aliens), so I figured I needed to check it out despite my misgivings about the character design and my vague impressions of it as a shallow superhero show.

                      When fans of Steven Universe tell other people about the show, they often rush to tell potential "converts" that they will need to give it time to get good. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard "Make sure you keep watching until Episode 12" or even "It really gets good around Episode 25." (It always seems to be those two.) The truth for me was that I was pretty hopelessly in love with it by the end of Episode 1. When I am trying something new, I usually give it a good long try before either giving up or admitting I just didn't care for it, but historically, there is an immediate connection for me when I love something, and I know it practically from the first minute. For SU, there's just a brilliant combination of (again) voice acting and music, compelling concepts, and soulful character interaction, and that completely revolutionized the impression I had of it from seeing stills of the characters and witnessing sort of hokey commercials.

                      And I basically think everything Garnet does is cute, even if she does sometimes look like an overly stoic boxer with a square head.

                      ~I think you're just mad 'cause you're single~
                      I'm that way with books, too. I can usually tell right away if I love something, because I'll have a connection with the characters or the voice or the flavor of the book. I can still like something if I didn't connect with it that way, like if I appreciate the message or I think it's a good idea or I can objectively understand that it was well-told and probably appealing to others. But if something doesn't cast that spell more or less immediately, I don't give it more than four stars on Goodreads and I don't add it to my favorites list.

                      The way I appreciate media has of course helped me figure out certain important aspects of how to write good stories, too. There's something to be said for the twist, for the build, for the reveal, for the long game. But you have to give the audience something amazing to connect to from page one--the thing they're sticking around for. The thing they care about. The character and concept they want to see play out. You don't have to show your whole hand and spend Chapter One doing a song and dance with all your best cards, but you have to lay the groundwork with a sense of permeating the audience's initial experience with a scent they like. And it can be really hard to figure out how to do that.

                      Ow, he hit me!
                      Ow, she bit me!
                      For me, I think that spell is usually constructed from personality and history. When I was watching Animaniacs, there wasn't really a story, per se, but the characters had clear personalities and I was entertained to see that they knew what to expect from one another, like a real sibling relationship. There were subtle cute things that happened, like how Wakko and Dot knew Yakko as the eldest brother was the talker and advocate of the group, so he was always at the front without complaint rattling off the jokes and supporting the others when it was their turn. Or how the CEO of the studio was always expecting the main characters to show up and ruin everything. Or how they had funny little personality clashes sometimes even though they primarily worked together to annoy people and crack jokes. The cartoon wasn't really about the characters' relationship to the extent that most other things I like are, but I saw it and loved it.

                      Goop hug!
                      In Steven Universe I obviously retained my tendency to have a crush on the leader, though she's the opposite of a talker, and I'm amazed by the layers of history these characters have racked up with each other. (I guess being together for several thousand years will do that to you.) But they gave me enough in Episode 1 to see that more was coming, without feeling too much like they were deliberately teasing me and stringing me along; since the show is presented from the point of view of a child character who wasn't there for the history that provides the framework, I can feel like the mysteries are natural and lend themselves well to a very slow reveal. You can respect that it takes its time with the forward plot and the architecture of its history, because you're learning about its existing relationships while watching new layers form. The future is a promise, but it's still based on something the creators gave you now.

                      So, as a writer and a person-who-sometimes-gives-advice-to-writers, all I can say is that this is how you do it. Do something right away that gives a peek at the soul of why people should consume your story. What's really special about it? What about that can you hint at or show during the audience's first exposure to it? Make sure you do it. Because even though some people will stick around and wait for you to get going, some others won't, and if they've given you the chance to talk to them by cracking the cover or pressing play, you may not have long to sell what you're offering. And even if you're not too fixated on keeping your audience interested, you should be interested in casting that spell as thoroughly as you can at the outset so people know what they've signed up for. You never want to feel like you need your audience to humor you until you get to the good part, at which point they'll realize what all the buildup was for.

                      There can be a feeling of payoff when they see where you were going with all that, but there has to have been something to stay for right at the beginning too. Even if your restaurant is about the food, give them a pleasant seating experience and a cushy chair. Even if your school is about the knowledge, give them a teacher they want to know more about and a classroom with learning tools in sight. Even if your story is about an adventure culminating in a hero defeating the bad guy, show us the hero's relationships and make us develop some feelings about his skills. Don't let us feel like we're kindly letting you tell us something you think is interesting. Make us want to be there by bringing your story's soul to Page One, and get us invested. Then we won't be able to wait to hear what you say next.

                      Saturday, January 16, 2016

                      Personal Digest Saturday: January 9 – January 15

                      Life news this week: 
                      • Saturday and Sunday I mostly dealt with a website issue that I had to fix or else an important interactive part of my website would have broken in February. Fixing it was easy but time-consuming because I had to apply the fix to a bunch of different places and tweak each separately. So I mostly did that on the weekend in between chores and feeling gross. It's not been a great health week.
                      • I also apparently did such a good job editing this mistakes out of the massive online Steven Universe trivia quiz game that I got asked to do similar grammar edits for the Gravity Falls trivia, so I did that even though I'm just a casual fan of that show.
                      • Oh and I joined Instagram.
                      • I had a lot of work to do again this week at the office, so I had less free time. But the good news is I also got a raise!! Also we hired a new engineer and I got to meet her but she doesn't start until toward the end of the month.
                      • Monday I finally finished my website editing so things won't break next month, and Tuesday I organized some music stuff that I've been meaning to organize.
                      • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. I got stuck at work doing something hard, and so I was a little late, but when I finally got out we went to Moe's and he gave me a cool new Steven Universe phone case for my birthday. After he left I made a new video.
                      • Thursday I went to Mom's after work. We ate at GrillSmith because we both had gift cards to go there. She gave me a bunch of birthday presents, mostly hair clip-ins and nail polish! We just hung out and chatted while I drew.
                      • And Friday I finished the comic and did some reading.
                        Places featured:

                              Reading progress:

                              New singing performances:

                              Here I'm singing "The Reason" by Hoobastank.


                              New drawings:

                              A doodle of Garnet I put on my work calendar. It is so kind of my birthstone to chill on my calendar for my birthday wearing the traditional cape and hat.

                              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0557: "The Itches."

                              New videos:

                              Letters to an Asexual #33 is out, and it is about whether an asexual person should be "obligated" to come out. (Answer: No way!)


                              New photos: 

                              Here's me reading under an important blanket. :)

                              And the haircut comparison photos (wow almost 2 years):

                              Front, February 2014
                              Front, January 2016
                              Back, February 2014
                              Back, January 2016

                              Social Media counts: 

                              YouTube subscribers: 5,253 for swankivy (no change), 548 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 728 for swankivy (4 new), 1,206 for JulieSondra (4 new). Facebook: 285 friends (lost 2, lol) and 185 followers (no change) for swankivy, 628 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 117 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,311 (lost 2). Instagram followers: 39 (all new).

                              Wednesday, January 13, 2016

                              Wednesday Factoid: Dogs vs. Cats

                              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Are you a dog person or a cat person?


                              I am not either one of those things.

                              If for some reason I "had to" have either a dog or a cat, I would prefer a cat. I am also allergic to cats, but I don't like them anyway, and I don't like dogs.

                              I don't like animals. At all.

                              What's really annoying is that people tend to be baffled by this. They feel compelled to evangelize about how great their dog or cat is, how theirs is different from whatever they assume I don't like about animals, or how I need to get over some imaginary fear of them that they've projected onto me. I just don't like pets. Period. I don't want to be around them, I don't want to be responsible for them, and I don't want to touch them.

                              And you know what else is really annoying? The fact that people translate these kinds of statements into a belief that I hate animals or would be cruel to them, or that I am a hypocrite because I'm actually a vegetarian for anti-cruelty reasons and have given significant donations to the Humane Society and other animal-related charities. Apparently that has made some people believe I'm a vegetarian because I think it makes me cool or allows me to shame others, but really the issue is that I love animals in theory. I don't want to be around them or take care of them, but I'm disgusted by poor treatment of animals and I know I couldn't bring myself to hurt or kill one (even to eat), so I prefer not to indirectly kill animals for my food since there are alternatives I am willing to deal with. I've been a vegetarian for almost eighteen years.

                              People have also noticed that sometimes I share cute animal videos and photos online, and they think it's peculiar that I don't like being around them. I guess that's also associated with liking animals only in theory. I love watching other people enjoy themselves with animals, and I think baby animals and many adult animals are adorable. But I don't like taking care of something that has feelings and depends on me; I don't like the way most of them smell and shed and lick and need their waste taken care of by me; I don't like that some of them cannot be prevented from jumping, scratching, or destroying my property. And I don't like the noises some of them make.

                              Interestingly, some people also respond to my situation by claiming I must lack exposure to animals and that's the "problem." That I would totally love dogs or cats or both if I was around them more. That this is all an argument from ignorance and if I had my own pets I'd stop having the feelings they don't understand. Well, bzzt. My family has had pets all my life. I grew up with dogs, and I hated it.

                              When dog chores fell to me I did them to help my family and to be kind to the dogs (there were some times during high school where I'd be responsible for dog-walking because I was the first one home), but I didn't like it. When I was a child and our family dog had puppies, I watched my sisters play with them but didn't have any interest in handling them. After I moved out to go to college and that doggie died, my family got more dogs, eventually having three of them that I had to deal with when I visited home. I hated that too. And now my dad has two dogs and my sister has two dogs, and most of my friends have pets.

                              I think I prefer cats (even though I'm allergic) because most of them are not aggressive about getting attention from you and they don't get as big as most dogs, but their litterboxes are pretty awful.

                              I really wish people would stop trying to press me to enjoy animals or assign me personal faults because I don't like them, but they probably won't stop anytime soon. Rargh. I mostly just quietly tolerate other people's animals and try to avoid touching them, and admire them if they're cute.

                              Tuesday, January 12, 2016

                              Cover Reveal: MACHINATIONS by Hayley Stone!

                              Hey everyone, so how about one of these--a cover reveal for one of my fellow Pitch Wars mentors! Get excited for . . . MACHINATIONS.

                              About Hayley's book:

                              Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

                              The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

                              A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

                              Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

                              Here are some places you can preorder it:

                              Or add it to your list on Goodreads!

                              And now, about Hayley:

                              Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

                              Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.